Well, well, well ...! It doesn't look like Kirkus Reviews is going to bite the dust anytime soon after all! The review magazine has been purchased by none other than Indiana business big-shot Herb Simon, who owns a vast amount of property around Indianapolis, amongst other things, including the Indiana Pacers basketball team (though the current team is a far cry from the heyday of Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, the Two Davises & Company). Mr. Simon's reason for buying Kirkus and saving it? He's a longtime fan and subscriber, and he loves books.
That's a rather sweet reason for a business man to buy into a publishing business, and Mr. Simon IS a rather smart business man, but this also has me a bit worried. I've experienced first-hand what it's like when someone buys into a publishing venture because they think "books are cool." I once worked for a rather large, well-known publishing company that was bought out by Paramount Pictures. The Paramount purchasers (who evidently knew nothing about book publishing) allegedly thought that the publishing company would be a fun business to run, make them lots of money, and naturally tie-in with Paramount's motion picture projects. They found out the hard way that publishing businesses are very, VERY tricky to run.
Now, let me tell you: being run by Paramount Pictures was an absolute BLAST when it came to the work environment. We were ALWAYS getting freebies tied to Star Trek and other Paramount properties -- movie posters, free movie tickets, access to sneak previews, t-shirts, etc. In no time, my office was decorated in wall-to-wall Star Trek, complete with stand-up cardboard figures of the Next Generation crew.
Then there were the parties! Paramount threw FANTASTIC parties for us. I remember one particular Christmas party in which Paramount rented out the entire Indianapolis Children's Museum for an evening -- the largest one in the world, by the way. The bash included INCREDIBLE catered food and tons of booze -- all free for the publisher employees. Let me tell you, there's nothing like getting stinking drunk and then riding the antique carousel ten times in a row, or heading into the then-Theater-In-The-Round to watch the "Roller Coaster" film. It's amazing I didn't throw up. (I also suspect the Children's Museum slapped Paramount with a HUGE bill after THAT party, what with all of the cleanup they had to do -- beer and wine glasses everywhere, amongst other things.)
Yes, working for Paramount was fun. It was also doomed. Paramount (at least at the time) didn't know the first thing about running a publishing company, and we started losing money hand over fist. By the time Paramount panicked and decided to unload us on another, smaller company at a loss, the damage was already done. The publisher never recovered. I really, really hope Herb Simon doesn't make the same mistake with Kirkus. Fingers are crossed!